For the uninitiated, the terms "free jazz" or "free improvisation" on a concert poster don't imply that the event has no admission charge. Rather, "free" refers to the lack of a perceived structure -- there is a framework, though it's less rigid and predictable than in mainstream genres -- while "improvisation" defines the possibilities of a sound emerging from the impromptu creative process, and free to be juxtaposed with any other sound.
The From Between Trio exemplifies this aesthetic to a T, indulging in what The Wire magazine has called "lowercase" improv: not the blustery fire of Albert Ayler and the free-jazzers, but sonic sculpture, where the careful, understated texture of the sounds, as well as the space between them, is paramount, rather than any kind of recognizable melody.
Jack Wright, one of the trio's saxophonists, has a solid connection to Pittsburgh. Born here in 1942, he returns regularly for concerts, and also toured Europe recently with our homegrown electronic improv wizard, Michael Johnsen; the CD Truant Runts on the Sprout and Flora label documents their adventurous interaction. Wright has worked with the cream of both the American and European free-improv scenes, and runs a prolific label, Spring Garden Music.
Rounding out the trio are French saxophonist Michel Doneda, who has a voluminous discography in Europe dating back to 1985, and Japanese-American percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani. Nakatani combines the Zen-like beauty of traditional Japanese folk music with an interest in New Music's extended playing techniques (metal objects, bowed cymbals and gongs) and has worked in sound design for films and television.
Listening intently to a From Between live recording, such as the 2006 No Stranger to All CD, reveals that much of what's going on -- the squeaking, scraping, banging and whooshing -- can't be attributed to any conventional instrumental method. Let alone the trio's liberal use of "mouth, hands, and air." Not as esoteric as it might seem, this group has simple goals: to create the right musical challenge and chemistry.
"I will not satisfy all music-lovers," admits Wright. "In fact, I don't care to. I only want to interact with others musically and join with a community of listeners who may or may not know what's coming, but are open to the experience."
From Between's Tue., Sept. 18, appearance -- the third installment of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' In-Tent series -- is a rare opportunity for the uninitiated to comprehend first-hand what free improvisation truly means.
From Between Trio. 8 p.m. Tue., Sept. 18. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 6300 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. $12. 412-361-0873